Cameroon cholera outbreak worsens

A cholera epidemic in Cameroon killed 65 people and infected about 1,300 people in two months.

FILE: A cholera epidemic in Cameroon killed 65 people and infected about 1,300 people in two months. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

DAKAR/YAOUNDE - A cholera epidemic in northern Cameroon has killed 65 people and infected about 1,300 people in two months, as international attention has been diverted to fighting Ebola in West Africa.

Health experts said the insurgency by Islamist sect Boko Haram was also hampering efforts to control the outbreak.

Some 185 suspected cholera cases were recorded last week alone in the outbreak focused on the Mogode, Hina and Bourha districts on the turbulent Nigerian border. The death toll is expected to climb as more cases are confirmed by laboratory testing.

Atilio Rivera-Vasquez, public health adviser in the region for International Medical Corps, said Cameroonian health authorities were diverting resources to impose checks at border crossing and airports for Ebola, after it killed more than 700 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"This is distracting from an appropriate and fast response to this cholera epidemic," Rivera-Vasquez said.

He added that the violent activities of Boko Haram in neighbouring northern Nigeria partly explained why the outbreak was not being brought under control.

Cameroon has some 100,000 double-doses of an oral cholera vaccine that showed high efficacy in a 2012 trial in Guinea. However, insecurity in the north has deterred the government from immunizing.

The cholera outbreak has shown a worrying increase in mortality in the last few months, he said, rising to 4.8 percent or more than double the 2 percent maximum cited in World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

US EBOLA SURVIVOR BEING TREATED

An American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus while in Liberia was being treated at an Atlanta hospital in a special isolation unit on Sunday.

A medical aircraft carrying Dr Kent Brantly landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia late Saturday morning. Brantly then was driven by ambulance to Emory University Hospital for treatment.

Dr Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, said he could not comment on a treatment plan until Brantly had been evaluated. Since there is no known cure, standard procedures are to provide hydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids, according to WHO.

Brantly works for the North Carolina-based Christian organization Samaritan's Purse. A second infected member of the group, missionary Nancy Writebol, will be brought to the United States on a later flight as the medical aircraft is equipped to carry only one patient at a time.

Brantly and Writebol were responding to the worst West African Ebola outbreak on record when they contracted the disease.

Despite concern among some in the US over bringing Ebola patients to the country, health officials have said there is no risk to the public.

The facility at Emory, set up with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one of only four in the country with the facilities to deal with such cases.